Zine Month Round Up #3

Sending messages to someone you’ll never see again across growing interstellar distances. A giant whirlpool crawling with pirates. A bar crawl on the borderlands. Trying to make sure your people don’t fall off the map. A rescue mission into an environmentally hostile forest chock full of horrible mutants and dragon cultists. A veritable library of zines. Zine Month ’22 continues onward at a typically breakneck pace, although maybe that’s just the time dilation we’re all going through… nevermind! You’ve had two rounds of ZiMo content already, so how about a third?

Signal To Noise

“The Signal arrived while our grandparents were young. An invitation to humanity from the stars. Driven by our curiosity and the proof that we were not alone in the universe we constructed the Generation Fleet. Vast vessels to carry humanity into the void and take our place amongst the stars.

But the journey could only ever be for a select few. Tens of thousands from a population of over ten billion. The selection process ripped apart families, forged new bonds and burned relationships. Those that ventured out were lauded as heroes while those that remained returned to their lives as loved ones grew ever more distant.

This is just one story of that journey, of two souls separated by the void of space trying to maintain a semblance of a connection.”

An epistolary (letter-writing) game for two players, exchanging messages between a character who has left on a generation ship and a character who has remained behind on Earth. The characters will struggle to maintain a connection as time lag and signal degradation make it harder and harder to communicate, before they lose their connection entirely. Intimate in a way only a duet game can be, Signal To Noise is also talked of as a prelude to an entire series of games about journeying to and exploring a mega-structure around a distant star, so it feels like getting in on the ground floor of something very interesting.

Signal To Noise’s digital version is already available on itch.io and DriveThruRPG, so its Game On Tabletop ZiMo goal is to fund a print run: £5 will get you a digital copy of the game, and £10 plus shipping will get you the physical zine, circa Summer ’22. There’s also a £5  plus shipping tier to receive a physical version for people who have already purchased the digital version via itch/DTRPG, and a £50 tier that gets you a game of Signal To Noise via email with the creator.

Vortex  Isles

You have learned the location of a great treasure, the lost hoard of legendary Captain Lolligo, who traveled the coasts long ago, violently pillaging countless towns before disappearing. The only problem: it is inside a giant whirlpool crawling with pirates. 

Welcome to Vortex Isles, a pirate-filled archipelago spiraling around a gargantuan vortex that is so dangerous that only those hiding from the law have settled here. Find a crew, steal a ship, and descend into the deep unknown in search of riches.”

Designed for D&D 5e (at about 3rd level) and Cairn with the potential for adaption for other similar RPGS, Vortex Isles is a ‘point crawl’ through a giant vortex with encounters on the high-sea, 2 island dungeons, and pirate creation tables and magic items. The party is sent to the Isles to retrieve an item from a particularly fearsome captain, and then hear of a great treasure somewhere in the depths to tempt them. Sounds like a pretty solid nautical adventure/setting for when you want to take your characters sailing.

Now, for something completely different, this game is being funded/released through Patreon, which was odd enough that I reached out to the creator to learn a little more about how this would work.

Vortex Isles is already complete, so this is of the ‘making up for the costs’ strain of funding. While it will eventually be released elsewhere, via the pay-up-front-for-the-month model becoming a patron at $3 would get you the digital version immediately and at $12 will get you the zine mailed to you at the end of the month. Going forward Jim Hall/Brooklet Games plans to continue to release a PDF/zine every month to  patrons, and agreed when I asked that it would basically be a subscription box.

Not the first time that sort of idea has come up in the TTRPG space, but the first time I’ve seen it done this way. Fascinating!

The Royal Cartographer

Maps lie. There are people hidden in their folds and legends lost in the margins.

Who will the Royal Cartographer represent on the Kingdom’s map? Do they even have a choice?

A world-building/mapmaking game, The Royal Cartographer is about representation and how the official story doesn’t necessarily line up with reality. Each player (whether playing solo or with 2-4 players) has a copy of the same map, and each adds landmarks and features which are part of their community. The eponymous cartographer, represented by a deck of cards, then steps in, trying to make the royal map as simplistic and reductive as possible. It’ll be up to the communities/players to push back and make sure something of their people remains on the map.

When you’re a kid, maps seem set in stone – we’re long past the point of ‘here be dragons’, or so it’s said.  Like any story, though, the map depends on who’s ‘telling’ it, and it’s a really neat idea for a game to take on.

You can check out both versions of the game as it currently exists on itch.io. On the Kickstarter €8 will get a digital version and €15 plus shipping the physical one with an estimated delivery of July ’22.. A limited number of backers could also get a physical copy of Superstition thrown in for €26. All tiers also help produce community copies for others.

Barkeep on the Borderlands

“The Keep once marked the lonely frontier of civilization. It is now the center of culture and commerce.

Each year, the Keep celebrates the Raves of Chaos to commemorate the brave heroes who gave their lives to rid the nearby caverns of vile monsters. Their sacrifice cleared the way for the Keep to expand to its current size and scale.

Today marks the beginning of this year’s week of festivities. But today, the celebration gives no comfort. A Monarch lies dying of a deadly but slow-acting poison baked into their morning cake. (It was still, by all reports, a scrumptious cake.)”

I don’t care how cliched they might be, taverns are great settings for adventure, so let’s have a round of shots bullet points:

  • 20 bars with random tables for patrons, encounters, events, drink specials and everything else you need to bring each bar to life
  • A map of the Keep’s entertainment district, lovingly illustrated by Jim Hall of Brooklet Games
  • Simple but effective procedures for running a pubcrawl as a pointcrawl adventure
  •  Rules for drinking and inebriation that are compatible with nearly any TTRPG derived from the 1974 progenitor roleplaying game
  • A timeline to keep the adventure dynamic as the player characters celebrate the Raves of Chaos
  • 5 intertwined factions vying for control of the Keep for the player characters to interact with, including a wizard academy, a cult of chaos and an NGO run by goblins

Lot of potential value in this one – the zine is billed as an adventure involving a poisoned Monarch and the search for an antidote, but you could also use it as a supplement by picking and choosing material for your own game, and it’s system neutral (calling out “Old-School Essentials, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Knave, Into the Odd, Black Hack, White Hack, Worlds Without Number, Pathfinder, 5e, etc.”).

$10 on Kickstarter will get you the PDF, $20 will get you the handcrafted zine as well, with an estimated delivery of December ’22.. There are some extra tiers that can get you a poster and/or a coaster, but more importantly there’s also a $5 tier for the PDF for those who need some help over financial barriers,

The Toxic Wood

“Five days ago an arcane distress signal reached a secretive council of wizards from the residents of Aldervale. The village was assumed to be destroyed when Ion – a powerful dragon – claimed the wood around it years ago. You are part of a team who have been sent on a dangerous quest into this hazy luminescent wood – to rescue the survivors of Aldervale from under the dragon’s nose.  The wood has a noxious microclimate and you must utilize a magical orb given to you by the wizards to survive. The orb generates a bubble of safe atmosphere, however it must constantly be fed new fuel. Running out of fuel means certain death. Strange creatures abound in the mutated ecosystem of the wood and all is not what it seems…”

A ‘corrosive hex crawl adventure’ for Old School Essentials, The Toxic Wood gets a lot right straight away, establishing the adventure as a rescue mission through an aggressively hostile environment. That ups the stakes way more than if the players were simply going in there to try and kill the dragon. It also seems stuffed full of content from bad guys to DMing tools, and I have to say the layout and art look very professional.

€5 on Kickstarter will get you the PDF and €12 the zine with an estimated delivery of August ’22. There’s also a €45 tier that will get you a few additional zines from creator Shane Walshe, and for the art collectors there’s a €120 for one of the original art pieces.

Axian Library

Keeping this one short as it’s already funded quite well, and I’ve already written a lot of words that may convince you to back it. If you’re looking for more OSE content Axian Library is compiling four e-zines into one hardcover, from the same creator that brought us Lands of Legends. Give our review of the Lands a read, and if you like what you see then I’d say the Library is a good bet for you as well.

State of the ZiMo

I don’t have any talking points for this one, but I do have some interesting DATA to share. An intrepid group among the ZiMo community wanted to better track how ZiMo is doing overall, as well as how individual projects are doing and how the different platforms are faring. They – @PercyPropa, @IanYusem, @doradee_, @sharkbombs have done so by harnessing the power of SPREADSHEETS.

You can take a look at the spreadsheets here – they’ve got oodles, noodles, and toaster strudels of information that may prove interesting, but most immediately it can show you which games might need your support the most and how much they’ll cost.

If spreadsheets make your eyes cross, don’t worry – we’ll be putting them to good use as we continue our Zine Month coverage. Stay tuned for Round Up #4!



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